Capcom was at the forefront of last year’s Nintendo 3DS launch with the excellent Super Street Fighter IV 3D.  They’re trying to capture lightning in a bottle twice with the release of a portable version of Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 for the Playstation Vita and I can safely say that Capcom succeeded: UMVC3 is every portable fighting game fan’s dream come true, albeit sans the tacked on touch screen controls.

Having spent countless quarters and hours with the classic Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, the series holds a special place in my heart as one of the funnest 2d fighters to ever grace arcade cabinets.   MVC2 is revered by many as the quintessential Capcom fighting game that has transcended the 10 or so years that it’s been out.  Other, more cynical Capcom fans, dismissed the game as a broken button masher.  The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.  Luckily for fans, Capcom finally decided to update the series on the current generation consoles, and now Sony’s spanking new portable, the Playstation Vita.

The premise is extremely simple:  somehow the two universes of Marvel and Capcom have crossed over and both the heroes and villains must prevent the nearly unstoppable Galactus from destroying both worlds.  Like its predecessor, UMVC3 has no story mode, instead featuring a straight forward 3v3 arcade mode featuring six fights culminating with a big final battle against the gigantic Galactus.  Multiplayer is available both through local ad-hoc and over the internet through the Playstation Network.  both a training mode and a mission mode allow players to master all of the various nuances in the game including air combos, hyper specials, assist attacks, and a plethora of other abilities.

Replacing the previous four attack buttons layout, Capcom has simplified the controls with three buttons controlling weak, medium, and heavy attacks, along with a new special attack button that launches enemies into the air for some spectacular air combos.  Special attacks and hyper combos may be easier to pull of, yet the complexity of tag assisted combos and air juggles dictate that button mashing won’t be enough to defeat an experienced player.  The PS Vita’s buttons feel great when pulling off intricate combos with either the d-pad or the analog stick – about as well as a standard PS3 controller.

Blending the best of both Marvel and Capcom universes, the character roster is broken up into 24 marvel super-heroes and villains and 24 Capcom characters. Though MVC2 purists will more than likely be disappointed at the exclusion of many fan favorites, Capcom and Marvel have done a good job at keeping the roster fresh and varied for the latest iteration.  Old favorites like Ryu, Magneto, Strider, Akuma, sentinel, are joined by Arthur and Red Arremer (from Ghosts n’ Goblins), Ghost Rider, Thor, Chris Redfield, Viewtiful Joe, Dante, and many others. It’s probably no coincidence that much of Marvel’s roster is made up of superheroes from recently released or upcoming movies, though obscure villains like Taskmaster and M.O.D.O.K make a welcome appearance.

MVC2 was often criticized for its character balance that favored powerful Marvel Characters like Cable, Sentinel, and Magneto over the weaker Capcom ones.  UMVC3 is definitely more balanced, though some Marvel characters like Sentinel, Hulk, and Deadpool are somewhat more powerful and easier to use than their Capcom adversaries. That being said, there are a ton of characters to master and even more team combinations to try. There is more variety here than pretty much any other fighting game released in the past few years.  Considering this is a portable game, it’s that much more palpable and impressive for it.

Super Street Fighter 3D was very well received showing for Nintendo’s 3D handheld that closely resembled its console siblings.  Capcom ups the ante with the presentation on the PS vita: aside from a few very minor details this looks exactly like the Ps3 and Xbox 360 versions.  Sure there is less background animation in some of the stages, but when the fur flies and the screen is filled with different colored beams and fireballs, the game is truly a sight to behold.  All at 60 frames per second.

The music and sound effects have been carried over 100% intact from the console versions.  Each character has several lines of dialogue that can be heard in either English or Japanese.  The soundtrack is decent enough, though your appreciation of the mainly electronic tunes can vary based on taste.  Several classic BGM tracks from previous Capcom fighting games are back and have been remixed – for better or for worse.  As a bonus feature, all character theme songs and sound effects have ‘movie’ versions that convert the high tempo songs to something more akin to a film score for those who don’t care for the standard tracks.  It’s a nice feature that’s seldom seen in video games and goes well with the game’s theme of two styles clashing together.

In an effort to take advantage of the large touch screen, Capcom has added a touch based method of input for players who simply want to see some of the flashy combos and hyper moves without mastering any of the button controls. Unfortunately, swiping the screen to execute combos and specials moves removes any real need for skill and improvement and should only be used by the most casual of players.

Considering that that the standard controls are fairly accessible, the touch screen implementation comes of as rather gimmicky and simply there to show shoehorn touch controls on Sony’s new console.  Gamers may try out these controls for their novelty, but even that wears off rather quickly, and in the end, it’s best to just avoid them.

If you are a fighting game enthusiast or just a fan of Marvel and/or Capcom universes, you can’t go wrong with UMVC3 at Vita’s launch.  Like with most fighting games, the single player experience may be devoid of much story exposition or character development, but the stellar online play and sheer variety of content makes Capcom’s latest portable brawler worth the price of admission; lets just pretend that the touch screen controls never happened.

+ Outstanding graphics

+ lots of variety and gameplay

+ Online Play

– Not much story outside of a short comic

– Gimmicky touch screen controls

A japanese copy of the game was used for this review.